Case studies in chicken dinner

Ten years and three kids later, I finally learned something useful. It’s probably too late for us. Maybe some other parents can make use of this lesson.

Why will some kids eat a variety of foods while others get lockjaw when you try to feed them anything not a nugget made from, or at least named after, chicken?

You’re probably thinking: “I know this one. It’s because some kids are nice and some are little devil bastards.”

While that may be true, I’ve discovered a correlation between how my kids sense food and their willingness to eat it.

Case Study #1: The Good Eater

I was cooking Italian sausage for our spaghetti. Big Man followed his nose into the kitchen. “Are you making my favorite chicken?” he asked.

“I’m making sausage”

He’s not tall enough to see the stovetop. “Pick me up so I can see it,” he said. I lifted him. His eyes confirmed what his nose had already told him. “Yup. That’s my favorite chicken! Can I have some?”

Big Man initially senses food with his nose. He cares less for its appearance, or for what odd name this particular variety of chicken is given. If it smells good, he wants some. When offered something new, his response is, “Let me smell it.”

This is how he discovered he liked sautéed asparagus. His brothers will suffer a week of nightmares if a single asparagus stalk touches their plates.

rice chicken

“Smells like my favorite chicken!”


Case Study #2: The Not Good Eater

On Buster’s short list of edible foods is teriyaki chicken from a particular restaurant. We could frequent this restaurant, on our way to the poor house, or we can make teriyaki chicken at home.

My teriyaki chicken isn’t five star restaurant quality, but it’s good. It’s good unless you are a six-year-old who first senses food visually. Buster took one look at my teriyaki chicken and it fused his lips together. It didn’t look exactly like the chicken he was used to; therefore it was not fit for consumption.

Case #3: The Recovering Not Good Eater

Big Brother was once like Buster, but he’s gotten old enough to not want to miss out on something good. He too was suspicious of my teriyaki chicken, but he was wise enough to note the similarities to the coveted restaurant version. It was worth a taste, and that’s all our chicken needed to win him.

Study Results

Based upon this anecdotal study with a sample size of three, I consider the science settled. Children who experience new foods with their noses become good eaters. Children who use their eyes don’t. Picky eaters will grow to be less infuriatingly selective once they realize they are missing out.


I’m mostly happy to finally be raising a good eater. Mostly, except on the days when I come home to find the little delicacy I was saving for myself gone and an empty container on the counter. It must have smelled good.

“Who ate my sausage chicken?”


23 comments on “Case studies in chicken dinner

  1. Pursuit says:

    How funny! There will come a day with three boys when nothing in your fridge or pantry is safe. Enjoy the brief reprieve. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. floatinggold says:

    I was a picky eater. Mostly visual.
    As I grew up, and had to provide for myself, I started experimenting. Turns out some things are tasty (while others are still not…)

  3. Just Joan says:

    Alas, I have no kids to test this theory on. But experimentation with fur babies yielded the following results. 1. Mutts like oatmeal cookies. 2. A Labrador retriever will eat anything he can get his paws on (raiding the trash, tipping over shopping bags and wolfing down a whole loaf of bread, inhaling the swirl off of any soft-serve cone not actively in your mouth, etc). 3. A dog spoiled from puppyhood will eat only a short list of items: one specific brand of dry kibble, Lee’s country fried chicken, Kraft American cheese slices, and plain butter (not on bread). 4. Dogs who got their freedom ride after eight months in the pound will eat whatever you’re offering. I love the sausage being your kid’s favorite kind of chicken; he’s ahead of his time, chicken sausage is quickly becoming a “thing.” Fun and informative post! Keep ’em coming, Snoozin. 🙂

  4. GoofyEd says:

    This research will not make Psyche Monthly, but is delightful none-the-less. Celebrate their diversity.

  5. Gibber says:

    I’m not sure if I’m picky. I’m allergic to garlic and onion so there’s very little that I can eat. I think I may have been picky when I did have more options. I definitely go by smell I think. I have a very strong sense of smell. Having said that my eyes can’t get past the look of escargot. Ugh! Have you’ll eaters ever tried them?

  6. thegsandwich says:

    My daughter is extremely picky, yet . . . loves sushi. Go figure.

  7. markbialczak says:

    Your years of experimenting with these three surely are precious, Scott. Bravo to life’s differences.

  8. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Your every post has me laughing, Scott. Oh for the JOY of children! You have NO idea how much boys can eat so be happy NOW that you still have the chance to eat your favorite delicacy. I give you so much credit in attempting to analyze and study to assist other parents out there. Bravo! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  9. victualling says:

    Yay Big Man for his olfactory sense! I believe he will enjoy life more because of it.

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